Author: Grace Canning
Nguyễn Minh Thắng
Birthday: 15 May, 1984
An Phuc journalists have interviewed Agent Orange victim: Nguyễn Minh Thắng.
Ever since he was born, Thắng’s “legs couldn’t go,” and he was “usually sick” with fevers and coughs. His family had to spend an enormous amount of time caring for him. Thắng has been wheelchair ridden since birth and has generously and openly provided us with a window into his paste, to help others understand what it was like growing up without legs. Thắng has stated that being disabled from birth and not being able to run like other kids throughout his childhood have been the main sources of his sadness throughout his difficult life.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most Agent Orange victims, the truth of Thắng’s disability was hidden from him. Despite repeatedly asking, he wasn’t even told the cause of his disabilities until he was 10 years old, and didn’t fully learn about Agent Orange and its collateral damage until he was in high school.
Thắng finished high school after earning “great grades,” and he passed his exams without his disabilities slowing him down one bit. After high school, he went straight to the An Phuc house for Agent Orange victims in Ho Chi Minh City. With help and support from the house along with hard work,Thắng attended the University of Labor and Social affairs in Hanoi and studied Human Resource Management. He received his degree while he was still living in the An Phuc House. Thắng has always been a voracious learner; in fact, a lifelong dream of his is continuing his studies at an American university. After three years of living at An Phuc and helping other victims in far worse shape then he, Thắng left to get married and live on his own.
Thắng now has a wife [pictured] and family. When talking about his wife, who also happens to be an Agent Orange victim, he says, we met in Saigon and have been dating since then. We talked often, began to love each other and then got married.” Thắng most enjoys spending his time with his family and now earns his living selling paintings and writing calligraphy.
Another travesty of the Agent Orange pandemic throughout Vietnam – Thắng currently does not get compensation from any government because he is technically not recognized as an Agent Orange victim. Just like many others, he is just a non-military civilian with horrible deformations obviously linked to dioxin contamination. Again, this means that Thắng and his family, despite his disability, receive close to nothing in terms of compensation. It is An Phuc’s mission to expose the United States and Vietnamese government’s absurd negligence of victims based on their non-military status. Keep in mind, throughout the Vietnam War, America sprayed Agent Orange on civilian rice fields. To this day he has not had access to the medical equipment that would be able to medically diagnose him as an Agent Orange Victim even though he is clearly contaminated.
Thắng’s legacy, determination and hard work in spite of his disabilities endure and inspire us all at An Phuc. His life was changed before he was even born when the United States decided to contaminate such a vast surface area of crop fields with Agent Orange. When asked if he could say one thing to the United States government, he replied “I want to say they should have stopped the spray of dioxin.”
Thắng – America supports you.
(G. Canning, personal communication, January 29, 2018). (Original interview seen below).
If anyone knows of any other Agent Orange victims that would benefit from being interviewed, please contact Grace Canning at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Q: Have you been disabled since birth? Can you describe your disability? How are you different from most people?
A: Yes I was just born, my legs couldn’t go.
Q: If your disability was not apparent at birth, when did it start to limit you? What did you have to give up?
A: I just was born usually sick (fever, cough).
Q: When did you learn what the cause of your disability was?
A: When I was 10 years old.
Q: When did you begin to understand what Agent Orange was and what it could do?
A: When I was in high school we learned about dioxin and what it could do.
Q: What was your childhood like? What could or couldn’t you do?
A: My childhood was so sad because I couldn’t run.
Q: How has your condition affected your parents and siblings?
A: They had to spend a lot of time caring for me.
Q: When did you leave to go to An Phuc House?
A: When I just finished high school.
Q: Did An Phuc House help you get into and complete school?
A: Yes, it helped me complete school.
Q: Do you have any interest in continuing your studies, maybe at an American University?
A: Yes, I am interested.
Q: If you could, what would you like to say to the people in the US government who decided to spray the crop fields of your country with Agent Orange which has affected your people for generations?
A: I want to say “they should have stopped the spray of dioxin.”
Q: Were you ever recognized as an official victim of Dioxin/ Agent Orange?
A: I have never been because medical equipment has not been widely tested enough on me to officially determine whether I’m contaminated or not.
Q: What has the government done to provide aid to you and your family growing up? How about now that you are married and starting a family?
A: They gave a monthly allowance. Now, they’ve never done anything.
Q: Please tell us a bit about the story of you and your wife. How did you meet? How do you manage your disabilities together? How does your family work differently? Were her parents exposed to agent orange as well?
A: We met in Saigon and have been dating since then. We talked often, began to love each other and then got married.